Decent work agenda key pillar of fair globalisation: President Bhandari

GENEVA: President Bidya Devi Bhandari has said the decent work agenda promoted by International Labour Organization constitutes a key pillar of fair globalisation where everyone becomes a winner, adding this goal can be achieved if every State accords due regard to the dignity and value of work.

Addressing the 106th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva on Thursday, President Bhandari, said we should create an environment for sharing best practices and promoting innovative ideas to make work more dignified.

The President, reminding that the world leaders adopted an ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the year 2015, said it was a matter of satisfaction that all pillars of the Decent Work Agenda were duly integrated in the 2030 Agenda. It has also rightly identified gender equality both as an objective as well as a means for realising the goals, she hailed.

According to her, the role trade unions play for the maintenance of harmonious industrial relations and peace ultimately contributes to the economic development and prosperity of society at large. We do acknowledge the role of trade unions in our national advancement too.

Thanks to ILO for electing Nepal in the Governing Board

"As ILO approaches its 100th anniversary in 2019, I commend it for making ‘Women at Work’ as one of the centenary initiatives. My sincere appreciation goes to the entire membership of ILO for electing Nepal in the Governing Board during the current session," she said.

Moreover, the President said compared to situation few decades ago, women are more educated and trained now; they have better access to labour market; they represent in increasing number in parliaments; and have more leadership role in governments and enterprises. But the goal towards realising full gender equality is yet to be achieved.

Societies cannot stand a long time on the shaky foundation of discrimination and inequality. Discrimination against women must come to an end for which we all have to put our meaningful efforts, she stressed.

"As I speak of women in the world of work, I am deeply touched by the cry of migrant women workers in vulnerable situation and their abuse and exploitation. Continued existence of some of the worst forms of labour and modern day slavery in the form of human trafficking and the trafficking of women and girls is an affront to the human civilization. This must not be allowed to continue further."

She also reminded her political journey as a student leader, woman activist and a trade unionist, and mentioned that she had closely confronted many constraints. "I have myself experienced how arduous and challenging it is for a woman to reach to the position of political leadership in a patriarchal society. However, I have never experienced defeat in my political journey to this point. The message one can learn from this is that with strong commitment and unwavering efforts women can succeed in most difficult political tests," she explained.

She expressed happiness that that in spite of the constraints imposed by weak economy and prolonged transition and challenges, Nepal has made significant strides towards achieving gender equality – be it in the world of work or in the socio-economic and political spheres. However, these achievements are not the results of coincidence.

Nepal has a long history of struggles to come to the stage we stand today. It has moved from a society where such evil practices as Suttee, child marriage, polyandry, dowry, social exclusion and deprivation prevailed. Many succeeding generations of women, daughters and sisters have shed blood and struggled to secure those rights. Several of them have attained martyrdom in the process, she informed the global community.

"I feel it important to recall the indomitable courage and sacrifice shown by Yogmaya Neupane who in an adverse social milieu of 1941 joined by her 67 women followers immersed to death in the Arun River in eastern Nepal in protest against misrule and socio-cultural evils. She is a pioneer in the early days of Nepali women’s struggle for their rights. Nepal’s journey of political and social transformation is full of such sagas of sacrifices made by women from all fronts of life. I pay high tribute to all those women leaders", she mentioned in the statement.

Nepal's constitution is of supreme standards

The President also informed that Nepal was on a transition from conflict to peaceful political transformation alongside the endeavours to transform from conservatism and outmoded social structures. Nepal's journey towards social transformation is ongoing.

After almost seven decades of persistent struggles, on 20 September 2015, Nepali people wrote the Constitution for themselves through their elected representatives. The Constitution as she mentioned was founded on the ideals of creating egalitarian society based on the proportional and inclusive principles to ensure equality and social justice and eliminating discrimination and oppression in all its forms and manifestations.

She made elaborate that the rights guaranteed by Nepal's Constitution were of superior standards. "The Constitution has provisions specific to women such as right against exploitation and violence, equal lineage, and protection by way of positive discrimination in education, health, employment and social security," she argued, adding that there was no restriction on the choice of employment or profession on the basis of gender. Women have equal entitlement to enter and compete for the positions in all public services, including those in civil, military and other security agencies. The number of women peacekeepers from Nepal in various peace operations under the United Nations was increasing. Gender discrimination in wages and remuneration is strictly prohibited. Moreover, employing women in hazardous work is outlawed, she related.

According to her, a law pertaining to positive discrimination was being implemented in government and public sector jobs in order to further empower women. Thirty three percent of the reserved quotas in civil service were guaranteed for women. This has resulted in significant increase in women’s representation in administrative decision making and opened avenues for gradual rise of women into leadership positions.

Moreover, the President said proportionally inclusive representation of women was guaranteed down to the local level. The recently held first phase of elections to the local government bodies helped to significantly enhance women’s political representation. The second phase of the elections would culminate into full realisation of mandatory constitutional requirement of at least 40% women’s representation in those elected bodies. Under the new arrangements, women will occupy equal number of leadership positions in local level bodies, she added.